- Developer Mark Holyoake is fighting a £132 million case against billionaires Christian Candy and his brother Nick.
- He claims the Candys required him to make excessive loan payments on a property development and then cut him out of profits on the deal.
- Extraordinary witness statements supporting Holyoake’s case refer to alleged threats, “gangster” behaviour, and even “mysterious deaths.”
- Nick and Christian Candy have yet to give their side of the case.
The witness statements from a £132 million lawsuit against a pair of billionaire property developers, Nick and Christian Candy, read like a film script. The allegations are so lurid they could be made into a thriller — although audiences might have some trouble believing the more colourful scenes.
The Candys are London’s best-known luxury property developers, and are reputed to have a joint net worth of £1.5 billion. They are responsible for One Hyde Park, the penthouse of which sold for (a rumoured) £140 million in 2013 — making it the single largest residential sale in the UK at the time.
A former university friend, Mark Holyoake, is suing the brothers for alleged intimidation, extortion, and blackmail in relation to a business deal that went sour. Holyoake and his wife have even managed to link the case to the mysterious deaths of three other British property developers, hinting darkly that the Candys may have some scary friends. The Holyoakes even allege that the Candys turned pop star Holly Valance against them.
The case is being heard in the high court, and the Candys have yet to present their side of the story. Representatives of the brothers vigorously deny the allegations. They point out, accurately, that a large part of Holyoake’s legal strategy relies on ruining the Candys’ reputations.
Taking the witness stand on Tuesday, Mark Holyoake’s wife Emma wept as she alleged that Christian Candy had threatened to cause her so much stress she would have another miscarriage.
She also said in court that the family had considered employing Gurkhas — Nepalese soldiers drafted into the British Army — as security guards, after hearing how reliable they were. In her witness statement, she said her fears were not unfounded because: “There are men in the Candys’ extended circle who have died mysteriously: Paul Castle, Scot Young, Boris Berezovsky.”
Castle was a property and restaurant owner who threw himself under a tube train in 2010. Young was a bankrupt property developer who fell from a fourth-floor luxury flat and was impaled on the railings below in December 2014. A coroner declined to conclude Young’s death was a suicide. Berezovsky, who was once regarded as Russia’s second richest man, was found hanged in 2013 near his home in Berkshire after he suffered a series of financial setbacks. A coroner recorded an open verdict.
There is no evidence in the case — beyond Emma’s speculation — linking the Candys to those deaths. Under cross-examination, the Candys’ defence barrister asked Holyoake why she and her husband hadn’t filed a report with the police.
A spokesman for the Candys added:
“Emma Holyoake has accepted in evidence that her statement is based on information provided to her by her husband whose claims are denied in their entirety.”
“The statement has the sole purpose of causing reputational damage to the defendants.
“The defendants remain committed to having these matters decided at trial by the judge.”
In his own witness statement, filed to the high court earlier this month, Mark Holyoake claimed he had filed reports with the police. He said he was “fearful for his own personal safety,” according to the Financial Times. He too alleged Christian Candy had made threats against his unborn child.
Alleged fallout with pop star Holly Valance
Holyoake also delved into the brothers’ personal lives.
Nick Candy married popstar Holly Valance in 2012, with Holyoake alleging that his brother Christian Candy and wife Emily Carter-Candy disapproved of the match. While Holyoake claimed to have an initially warm friendship with Valance, their relationship turned, and Valance eventually blocked her former friend on Facebook.
Holyoake said in her statement: “[…] I recall that Holly blocked me as her Facebook friend. I was hurt by this as I had hoped that our friendship could survive any difficulties between our respective husbands.”
She went on to outline an alleged incident where Valance had instructed a mutual friend to remove any photographs she had posted of Emma Holyoake from Instagram.
In her witness statement, Holyoake alleged that Nick Candy “played up” being a billionaire.
She said: “In fact it was a source of great frustration that he and Christian were excluded from the Sunday Times ‘Rich List.’ There was one year when the brothers were included in this Rich List. The next year, they did not appear and Nick was extremely annoyed by this omission.”
Claims of harassment and intimidation
The case relates to Nick Candy’s £12 million loan to Mark Holyoake to fund a project at a London apartment block, Grosvenor Gardens. Holyoake had acquired the property with an eye to converting it into “high-end accommodation” for a profit. Candy agreed the loan at an interest rate of 20%, plus 30% of the profits from the development.
In documents filed to the high court, Holyoake alleges Nick and Christian Candy then forced him to sell the property early after an intimidation campaign targeted at himself and his family. He claims he ended up repaying £37 million to the Candys after the original £12 million loan, and that he lost out on substantial profits.
Emma Holyoake said in her statement: “Mark informed me that Christian had repeatedly threatened him saying such things as he would destroy him and his family, he would ‘nuclear bomb his entire world’ and would ‘f*** him up’ in any way possible if he did not do exactly what was asked of him.”
She also testified that Christian Candy “bullied” his brother Nick. Holyoake claims that in 2012 Nick’s wife Holly told her that she once found him “lain down in the foetal position” and “crying uncontrollably,” due to Christian’s behaviour.
The collapse of Crowdmix
Another witness appearing for Holyoake was the former CEO of the defunct music startup Crowdmix, Ian Roberts.
In his witness statement, Roberts claimed Candy Capital had effectively “blackmailed” its way into owning the company, and that investor Nick Candy had behaved “like a gangster” in doing so. He alleged Candy Capital had threatened to withhold investment unless he and co-founder Gareth Ingham gave up a portion of their equity to Christian Candy.
Under cross-examination from the Candys’ defence QC, Roberts said: “I decided to share my experiences, there’s a certain element of behaviour consistent with what I see in this other case.”
Roberts acknowledged his own role in Crowdmix’s failure, and said: “I do not seek to deflect criticism where it’s due.”
A spokesman for the Candys said: Ian Roberts’ claims are unsubstantiated and denied in their entirety. His role in the failure of Crowdmix was well-documented in both the business and mainstream media. His allegations are being used solely to cause reputational damage to Nicholas Candy.”
Another witness, chartered accountant Clive Hyman, submitted a witness statement alleging that he felt “threatened” by approaches from associates of the Candy brothers.
Hyman originally submitted a statement in November for the case, but last week said he had been informed that people giving evidence for the Holyoakes would be “pursued.” Hyman said he believed he was being intimidated, and that he had informed the police of the alleged threats.
The case continues.